Saturday, November 30, 2013

Response to management re: Nov. 14 "open house"

Remaining Lockhaven tenants found another letter from the Management taped to their doors last Friday, November 22 - the company’s recap of the Open House meeting on the 14th. The best outcome for most of us was a “timeline”, a table of buildings and the corresponding month in which “residents may expect to receive notice that renovations will soon begin” (italics mine). A step forward in “transparency”, perhaps, but not the information we deserve. The latter would be a solid commitment to dates before which renovations will not commence and/or especially a commitment to dates before which we will not receive (legal) termination notices.

The letter also makes an “Incentive” offer of 1-month free rent for those returning to renovated units. Presumably this means current tenants, although it’s not clear if this would apply to former tenants as well. In any case, a kind gesture but takers on this offer are not likely to be many, with projected new rents being twice the current rate. Would moving twice, OUT and then IN again, be worth a month’s rent? Help in storing belongings is also offered with no specifics. How convenient that Goodman Real Estate manages the nearest storage facility! Are we supposed to infer something here? A month of free storage also?

 Contact information for the new relocation specialist, Kerry Lynch was also given. We are thankful for this service, but Kerry’s work is certainly cut out for her! Those of us who have already been searching are finding local rental rates pretty depressing. And we have already said goodbyes to ejected Lockhaven neighbors who have given up on Ballard and fled to places as far away as Edmonds, Olympia, and Vancouver.

Evan Sugden

Friday, November 22, 2013

More security lapses: Will management act?

The following note was sent by our neighbors Alexandra Sawyer and Tom Lehmann to Lockhaven management about some truly alarming security lapses:
We live in Lockhaven's 3028 building, which is currently having the siding redone and is about to have the roof replaced. Despite considerable disruption over the course of construction (including several Satudays in a row where the crew has been pounding away at our bedroom walls by 8:00AM, a near-daily metal sawing operation established outside our kitchen window, and general disarray of the premises), we have tried to be patient with the transition and make the best of it. 
However, three issues have recently come to our attention that must be addressed immediately to ensure our building's security:
  • The front door to the 3028 building no longer engages when closed, unless it is pulled shut with a firm tug. Since most folks simply let the door swing shut, it is effectively left unlocked for most of the day. (This was not the case until recently, it appears that the lock is malfunctioning.) Please send one of the staff out to take a look and repair the door as appropriate. 
  • A rock has been left in the building's back door to prop it open several times over the past 2-3 weeks. The siding crew is set up outside the back door and sometimes uses the inside outlets for their power tools (which is understandable), but they need to then remove that rock and close the back door so our building remains secure. Please ensure that they do so.
  • In the course of writing this email, we went downstairs to do laundry and found that the ground-level basement window was wide open with an extension cord coming through. It is 8:00PM and pitch dark outside - no crews are here working. It is unacceptable to have the building left unsecured in this manner, especially given recent reports of a break-in and bike thefts in the basement of another building (3048). 
Please address these issues immediately and follow up to let us know how they have been resolved. Certainly, the other tenants in 3028 would appreciate notice as well. 

Roof work and misinformation

Apparently at the open house hosted by Goodman Realty on Nov. 15, false information was given out regarding roof work. Our neighbor Julie Miller writes:

I thought I'd just keep you all in the loop that I wrote a letter of complaint to Anissa at Pinnacle this morning. I got home last night to find a note on my door saying they would be replacing the roof of our building (3024) starting today and hopefully finishing up 12/12 (quite doubtful since they still haven't finished the siding project on my building despite starting 2 months ago). This is the first I had hear of the roof on our building needing to be replaced. At the meeting at the Senior Center I asked the people doing the renovations if they knew anything about the roof project and they said this is not the time of year to work on roofs. I know it isn't shocking or anything new, but it is disappointing because it impacts the holiday/s. 
Thank you for all that you have done to help make the move out a little less stressful. I know the only reason they have made the changes that they have (such as the tentative timeline & relocation specialist) are because of the pressure from your group!
This morning I did in fact see  roofing material staged on top of 3024. Conditions for any kind work on the roof are particularly treacherous at the moment with workers having to cope with slick, frost-covered shingles:

In other construction-related developments, more tenants have been suddenly deprived of their parking spaces:

Is this the kind of management future tenants of Lockhaven will be getting for their doubled rents?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Letter to Seattle media

I've sent this letter to the Seattle media. Note that this is from me personally, not the Lockhaven Tenants Union:

Dear distinguished luminaries of the Seattle media,
David Stoesz of the Lockhaven Tenants Union here.
Lockhaven Apartments have for decades provided modest, affordable, well-maintained housing to a diverse community. Imagine a clean, decent place to live near the heart of Ballard that even a retired person living on Social Security could afford. Many residents have lived at Lockhaven for decades, cultivating friendships and gardens. It's also home to tenants with Section 8 vouchers, and is one of the few places low-income tenants can afford to rent. This summer Lockhaven was sold to Goodman Real Estate, a company well known to local tenants’ rights activists for its pattern of clearing out existing tenants, doing slapdash renovations, and jacking up rents, The Downtowner Building in the ID being a prime example.
It didn't take long for it to become clear that this pattern would be continued at Lockhaven.
In September, Goodman Real Estate issued blatantly illegal 20-day vacate notices to tenants in three buildings, and also extended deceptive buy-out offers, both of which actions were blocked by the city. These setbacks have stopped neither their sloppy renovations, which have left us living in garbage and destruction, nor their plan to get rid of existing residents. It's clear that the city's sanctions mean nothing to Goodman Real Estate, a company that, according to its own website, has a market value of over $2.5 billion.
We've gotten far too used to hearing about our favorite coffee shop, bar, or bowling alley being closed so a developer can try to squeeze out a few more dollars per square foot. We've gotten far too used to that sickening feeling of inevitability as our city is reshaped by greed, with no regard for history, community, or economic diversity. We've gotten too used to the idea that it's OK to price out the elderly and the disadvantaged.
So who's behind Goodman Real Estate? The founder and chairman of Goodman Real Estate is one John Goodman. Lockhaven is now managed by Pinnacle Family of Companies. Founder and chairman of the board of Pinnacle: John Goodman. Mr. Goodman should know better. He is a native Ballardite and a graduate of Ballard High School.
And yet what he says with his actions to elderly and disadvantaged tenants is, "You don't belong here. This isn't your city anymore. Because there isn’t enough money in it for me." It's a message we have too long endorsed with our silent complicity.
Goodman Real Estate has 2.5 billion dollars. We, the Lockhaven Tenants Union, have a Facebook page, a blog, and the scant free time of busy working people trying to preserve their community. And yet we have had remarkable success in getting our story told. We have had stories on KOMO, KIRO, Q13 Fox, My Ballard blog, Real Change, the Ballard News-Tribune, and other outlets. Nick Licata and Kshama Sawant have provided invaluable support and guidance.
But we need more. All the tenants of Seattle need more. This is not a passing human interest story. This is part of a bigger pattern. We need the continued interest of the media to look into John Goodman and other developers who get millions in tax breaks to construct "affordable housing" while destroying the affordable housing that already exists. We need the city to provide better protections for tenants and for every citizen who believes that the human rights of the many should not be trumped by the property rights of the few.
Below you will find a letter we sent to John Goodman last week. In this letter we call on him to reverse course and partner with us to find a better way forward. John Goodman stands at a fork in the road. One way leads to the destruction of a beautiful urban community and the continued economic homogenization of the city. The other leads to a new vision for housing that preserves both legitimate profit and the good of the community. He has a chance to be a hero here. To be clear, we want him to be a hero, and would love to help him build a reputation as a housing visionary.
Please help us hold him accountable for the road he chooses.
Best regards,
David Stoesz
Under this, I included the letter we sent to John Goodman.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A break-in, other suspicious activity?


There certainly has been a change of atmosphere around Lockhaven as our well-maintained gardens and grounds have been obliterated by scaffolding, noise, garbage, and bare walls hanging in unsightly strips as John Goodman prepares our homes for new, richer tenants. But have you also noticed an increase in suspicious activity? 
Our neighbor Eric Van Steen reports a disturbing incident:

On Sunday night, between 11pm and 6am, the back door to the boiler room that is attached to the laundry room of 3048 was broken into.  Since there was only a slide lock in the boiler room the thieves were able to enter the laundry room simply by sliding a bolt.  They then proceeded to cut a pretty substantial bike lock and make off with three high end mountain bikes that are stored down there.  These are not cheapie, leave outside bikes, they are worth some money.  Oddly enough, there were two other, similar mountain bikes which weren't locked which were moved aside and left.  Seems to me like this was planned as they needed to know how to access the laundry room from the boiler room of a separate building and they had to know to bring bolt cutters with them and they specifically targeted the three better bikes (you wouldn't know just looking at them).
Those bikes are also not the easiest thing to get through doors and such, so they probably needed a couple people with them.
The boiler room was 'secured' with a small pad lock and the door has a huge hole in it, covered with a board screwed into place.  Access from the boiler room to the laundry room (and therefore our entire building) is as simple as sliding a bolt (if it was even engaged), then the entire building is open to the outside.
I have been noticing an increased amount of suspicious activity around the building ever since Pinnacle took over and the work on the building started and I just wanted to send this note that we should increase our vigilance around the buildings and reporting suspicious activity when we see it and make sure that your building is actually secure and not just open to the outside via a different route.  My girlfriend was in the basement collecting laundry around 10.30 or 11.  I don't want to think what would have happened if the bike thieves were down there with her or walked in on her.
Eric also writes that he's noticed:
  1. Shopping carts.  In the last 4 years, I have not seen one on the property.  Since September I have seen 3 or 4.  There was actually one parked next to the access ramp on Sunday afternoon.  It was gone the next morning.
  2. I have noticed the gray garbage bins have been left open a couple times, (3 or 4 times) when I have gone out in the morning.  Nothing alarming, just different and doesn't seem right.
  3. Many more random people wandering around the property, of course I don't know everyone, but there seems to be more people I don't recognize

Thanks for the report, Eric. This is not to engage in scaremongering, and we certainly don't want to raise unwarranted suspicions against people such as workers who have a legitimate reason to be here. But we should definitely keep our eyes open, watch our for each other, keep sharing information, and immediately report suspicious activity to the police.

Ballard News-Tribune on the latest from Lockhaven

"The tenants are still mad. The new owners are still fairly unresponsive to concerns."

This story does a great job summing up the mood at the Goodman Real Estate open house. Read the whole thing.

The current view from Lockhaven

Friday, November 15, 2013

Goodman Real Estate open house a bizarre affair

Well, that was strange.

Goodman Real Estate held an open house at the Ballard Senior Center Thursday night to explain their plans for Lockhaven and offer the services of various "relocation specialists." The evening consisted of about a dozen employees of Goodman Real Estate and Pinnacle Family of Companies standing around and fielding questions from Lockhaven tenants.

It was much less well attended than the event organized by the Lockhaven Tenants Union in October. About 20-30 tenants were there, almost all of them associated with the Union. The main piece of information the Goodman people shared was the dates when we all be driven from our homes. Find your building's address here to find out when you'll get a 20-day vacate notice:

By their own admission, these dates are not necessarily to be believed. As it says in black and white, "dates subject to change." Does that mean we could lose our homes sooner than that? Or later? It's apparently impossible to tell.

One of the questions that raised was so-called "key money," which is basically a cash incentive landlords offer tenants to move out. They claimed this is not legal, which is odd, since they actually made such offers back in September. One of the questions they refused to answer was about the name of the contractor doing the renovations on the outside of the buildings. For the record, that contractor  is American West Contracting:

At one point, a group of tenants was questioning GRE employee Josh Obendorf, who began to lose his composure and act in way that some of us found unprofessional and condescending. In response to this, we have sent a letter to Mr. Obendorf and cc'd his boss, John Goodman. This entire interaction was witnessed by a reporter for the Ballard News-Tribune and caught on camera.

Here's the letter we sent:

Dear Mr. Obendorf,
We are writing to express our disappointment with last night's open house for Lockhaven residents. 
At a basic level we are disappointed that the purpose of the evening was to help people "relocate." We don't want to relocate. We want Goodman Real Estate to not drive us from our homes in the first place. 
But we were also disappointed and disheartened by the conduct of you and the other employees of Goodman Real Estate and Pinnacle Family of Companies. You were strangely unforthcoming about basic information we have a right to know, for example the name of the contractor responsible for the appalling and unsafe conditions we are being forced to live in. You and other employees became flustered and emotional while evading these questions, and your attitude became at times openly contemptuous. When a tenant mentioned a ladder and scaffolding blocking the entrance to his building, you snapped, "It's a good thing there are two doors then, isn't it?"  
We thought the purpose of the open house was to give clear and accurate information in a respectful way. If you hoped that the evening would placate Lockhaven tenants and convince us that your intentions are honorable, then it must be considered a failure.  
We hope for a more respectful and constructive dialogue in the future. 
Best regards, 
The Lockhaven Tenants Union

KIRO News story about Lockhaven

Missed this when it came out, but there was a story about Lockhaven on KIRO News this past Monday. It's a good story as far as it goes, and a couple of our neighbors did a wonderful job describing what they're going through. But it was an incomplete story. No mention was made of the Lockhaven Tenants Union or Goodman Real Estate. Instead, it was presented as part of the unavoidable trend of rising rents. There is nothing inevitable about driving people from their homes, and this isn't something that's just sort of happening. It something that's being done by a specific person: John Goodman. And we are very much not passive victims of this action. We have resisted with great success, and will continue to do so.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"Please do not drive us from our homes"

The following letter was sent to John Goodman today on behalf of the Lockhaven Tenants Union. Lockhaven management and Various other members of Goodman Real Estate were cc'd.

Dear John Goodman,
Please do not drive us from our homes.
Your website says that you "specialize in distressed, underperforming, or mismanaged properties." Apparently you see the Lockhaven Apartments as falling into this category, and, having purchased Lockhaven this summer, you are currently proceeding with plans to dislocate all tenants from their homes, perform largely cosmetic renovations, and raise rents by as much as double. 
Lockhaven has existed for decades as a well-maintained complex of buildings, and is home to many elderly and low-income residents who have lived here for decades, and have invested their own love and labor into the grounds. It's blooming with flower gardens and pea patches cultivated by these residents. Wander the grounds on a sunny day and you'll see laundry drying on clothes lines that have stood since the 50s and signs urging you to help yourself to tomatoes. Distressed? Mismanaged? No. In fact all the things that Seattle often claims it wants to be—affordable, green, and sustainable—Lockhaven already is.
John Goodman, you have a reputation for philanthropy. You are also a native Ballardite and graduate of Ballard High School. You are our neighbor, your house/private marina a five minute walk from Lockhaven. It is because of your character and your background that we are confident you would not want to harm your neighbors. If you proceed with your plan to dislocate us from our homes, you will harm not only your neighbors and your community, you will do real and lasting damage to your reputation and to your company's reputation. The story of Lockhaven is attracting wide-spread attention from the media, the community, and elected leaders. It is a story that resonates with a city struggling with a housing crisis.
John Goodman, you have a fantastic opportunity to be a leader on this crucial issue. In addition to asking you to not dislocate hundreds of Lockhaven residents, we further call on you to partner with us and find a solution for Lockhaven that can serve as a model for the future of affordable housing in Seattle. We acknowledge your right to improve your property and to profit from it. Let us help you find a way to do that preserves Lockhaven and does not erode the special character of the neighborhood you love.
As a first step toward this vision, we call upon you to immediately withdraw plans to kick us out of our homes, and to inform us of this decision in writing.
We look forward to hearing your response soon.
Best regards,
The Lockhaven Tenants Union

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Real Change story

Hey, we made Real Change! Big thanks to that paper for this write-up.

If we have any minor quibble, it's that the story makes us sound a bit somber and elegiac. We are not somber and elegiac. We're fired up and ready for battle. The exposure is great though. Thanks, Real Change!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

About those two letters from Goodman Real Estate

Sorry to have gone silent for so long. The flu and life in general conspired against regular updates to this blog, but we're back and will try to do a better job keeping you informed about Lockhaven developments.

As you know, residents received two letters from Josh Obendorf of GRE, the first dated October 31 and the second November 6. The first letter attempted to explain away as a mistake Goodman Real Estate's illegal attempt to drive residents from their homes with 20-day vacate notices in September, described some of the repairs they're doing, and introduced us to a "relocation specialist." The second letter is an invitation to an open house at the Senior Center on Thursday, 11/14 from 6-8 pm.

A few things about the first letter:

  • Their admission of wrong-doing expresses regret only that what they did was illegal ("Not in accordance with the City of Seattle's Tenant Relocation Program").
  • This admission totally leaves aside the fact that they intentionally tried to dislocate tenants with 20-day notices. There was no mistake in this intention. What they did, and continue to do, is not only illegal in some cases, it's wrong.
  • Is it believable that a multi-billion real estate company was unaware of the law?
  • This sentence is truly extraordinary: "As a company with deep roots with Ballard, we believe that Lockhaven is a unique, irreplaceable series of buildings that should be part of the neighborhood fabric for decades to come." This is about as flimsy and hollow as spin gets. You don't show appreciation for a community by driving them from their homes. 
  • It's amazing how shamelessly Orwellian they are in their appropriation of the language that's been used on this blog and in the media to describe the damage they're doing: "Neighborhood fabric," "unique," "deep roots in Ballard."
  • Why would we care about the renovations they're doing when these renovations for the benefit of the newer, richer tenants they want to put in our place? Other than the fact that we are still living in conditions like this:
Ladder blocking the entrance to 3026
  • It is clear that their plan to get rid of us is very much in place: "Unfortunately, most tenants must relocate slowly and in phases over the next 5-15 months."
  • The reference to "most" tenants implies the existence of a so-called "protected list" of tenants who will not be forced out of their homes. I left a voicemail for our relocation specialist about this, and got a voicemail back assuring me that all will be made clear at the Nov. 14 meeting. 
  • They want us to know they totally understand our pain: "Relocation is not easy."
  • There is no return address or phone number. Instead we are directed to talk to relocation specialist Kerry Lynch at a "24/7 hotline." The 24/7 part seems to refer to the fact that you can get to her voicemail whenever you want.

Still, the letter is positive in the sense that John Goodman is more fully showing us his hand. His admission of wrong-doing gives us hope that he will realize his entire plan for the destruction of our community is wrong.